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Former lawmaker ponders bid for state agriculture commissioner

By Glenn Evans
July 25, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Former Longview state Rep. Tommy Merritt said little Thursday about published reports he wants to be the Texas agriculture commissioner - except that they are true.

"The answer is just, I'm definitely interested," Merritt said. "I'm definitely interested in seeking the office of agriculture commissioner."

That job has been held since 2007 by Republican Todd Staples of Palestine, who is one of two statewide elected officials challenging Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary. The other is Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

Filing for the 2014 election cycle is from Nov. 9 to Dec. 9. The party primaries will be March 4 with the general election the following November.

Merritt represented District 7 in the Texas House of Representatives for seven terms before falling to Republican Rep. David Simpson in both 2010 and 2012.

The oil and gas support business owner spent much of his tenure in Austin arguing for rural interests. That could recommend him for the ag commissioner role.

The commissioner has several duties including public school nutrition programs, pesticide regulation, grocery scale and egg inspections, gasoline pump accuracy and promotion of Lone Star agricultural products.

Merritt was traveling in Montana when he spoke to the News-Journal and declined to elaborate on any preparations or discussions he might be having en route to a potential political reentry.

He did say he would not use the ag commissioner job as a springboard to higher office. Republicans Gov. Rick Perry and state Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs each made stops as ag commissioner.

"I'm not running to seek a higher office," Merritt said. "I'm running because the agriculture commissioner is very important to the state of Texas. The agriculture commissioner can speak about energy and energy development. How do we lower the cost of food?"

Merritt has stayed out of the public eye since the Republican primary in May 2012. He has kept his campaign finance reports up to date, however, with the Texas Ethics Commission.

His July 15 report indicates only a payment to the company producing his website and the $212,000 repayment of a loan he had made to his last campaign.

"I loaned the campaign money, and they repaid it," he said. "I (now) have no campaign debt."

Merritt might not be alone on the pre-campaign trail. Texas Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe chairman of the House Republican Caucus in Austin, is contemplating the same post.



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